Commentary

Passive protagonist

Have you noticed that Dolly doesn’t do jack? Because that’s true. She mostly reacts rather than acts, and even then her reaction is usually…not normal.

Dolly was supposed to be passive because she’s just that: a doll. She’s Ichor’s original character, an idealistic image of herself from an alternative universe, she has little to no personality of her own continues Ichor’s cycle of passiveness.

Dolly just says “whoops” when she sees Pepper’s gruesome death. Nick basically admits he tried to attempt suicide in poppies, and she calls him a sleepyhead. She acts very obliviously and innocently about all the disturbing stuff that’s going on, as Ichor just wanted to distance herself from any negativity.

However, that was supposed to change gradually. Dolly would start freaking out and feeling miserable more and more as the plot progresses, Bastille and Nick’s deaths being the last drop, because you can ignore reality only for so long.

Anyways, all this symbolism is fine and good, but turned out that a one-note cardboard cutout that has nothing to contribute doesn’t make for a very interesting or relatable main character.

I tried to cop out of it, arguing with myself that the story isn’t really about Dolly anyway, it’s about all those people that were linked to Ichor and the events she went through. It’s not Dolly’s Awesome Adventure, it’s The Black Brick Road of OZ: the road that goes through that entire world and connects everyone. But still, Dolly is on-screen for long enough to make everyone even the tiniest bit bored and tired of her.

It’s especially a shame because the Oz books are notable for having some very active female protagonists. I mean, the book Dorothy bitch-slapped a lion for attacking her dog. It’s something that I didn’t really think about until it was pointed out much later, so I probably wouldn’t have written Dolly this way. Having a cool fearless hero persona makes more sense for Ichor anyway.

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One thought on “Passive protagonist

  1. I think it’s great that you’ve been able to exam the problems through such a critical lens, especially when others have given you constructive feedback. I didn’t realize this about Dolly when I first read the comic but you’re right. She was such a blank slate (but I love her design and the other outfits you created for her.) XD

    If you decide to tackle this story again sometime in the future and give it a reboot, maybe you could have Dolly shift a lot faster? A cool, fearless, and active persona is what Ichor wants but maybe it takes a few steps before it kicks in because Ichor is so passive and Dolly has to learn how to be that way. So, Dolly is still “Whoops” over Pepper’s death and isn’t certain what else to do since she doesn’t know Pepper or how anything happened, which bothers her later on. Then she quickly realizes she’ll need to be more curious, assertive, and determined if she’s going to figure out who she is and where she came from. Dolls are all about imaginative play too, so maybe Dolly begins imagining all sorts of wacky possibilities and she keeps asking other people if they’ve heard of anyone like what she’s envisioning (as well as what she does know about herself… maybe even dropping the bombshell that she killed someone with her big dollhouse.)

    And of course, Dolly decides to try out some of her ideas, leading to some mild but wacky and annoying results for her companions and whoever they come across. She also gets excited whenever her friends show her something new (which is everything) but if it’s actually boring she drops it quickly, ready to move onto something else. I realize that’s a huge change but it’s just a thought! After all, Alice and Dorothy were assertive and reasonably curious but they were a lot calmer than I’m describing. It could be more subtle, but I like the idea that existence itself is all new to Dolly so she’s actively sorting things out more often than most people would, even if it’s just to ask a lot of questions or offer theories. It would help simply if she got frustrated and flustered at times, especially if she didn’t know what a normal reaction would be. At the same time, she’s not directly asking for advice, maybe a little embarrassed that she has no idea, or she could be so fearless and clueless that it takes her awhile to realize that she shouldn’t be so direct? But after that, she becomes much more subtle and tries to learn through observation as well, ruling out anything that doesn’t seem to be the kind of person she’s striving to be (as she learns what is proper for the fearless and assertive people of the world.) I guess that’s all she really needs: a goal. Dolly can’t really have an introspective journey, subtle or overt, without one. And then it’d be interesting to see her come to terms with the idea that she’s just an empty shell when she finally realizes she has no memories now because she never had any in the first place. Shawn could maybe help her a bit with acceptance? Haha…

    Also, I totally understand about crafting a monstrously huge story by constantly adding new characters and new ideas, then getting overwhelmed once you realize how much of a commitment exploring everything would be. I’ve also recognized needing to go through all of the subplots and needing to weed out the most unnecessary elements, including characters, as well as sorting out the best narrative order (including what works best purely as a flashback and what doesn’t need to be seen directly, just backstory/history, to be appreciated.) Doing that is also a monumental task and I have at least two projects I’ve been poking at since then (one technically original and one purely a fanfiction series.) I wish I could give you some tips but I think you’ll end up helping me a lot more, as I continue to read your blog. :D

    Like

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